Florida House Bans Abortions After 15 Weeks of Pregnancy

The Florida House of Representatives, following a precedent set by Mississippi, passed a controversial bill banning abortions after fifteen weeks — including in cases of rape and incest — on Thursday, February 17, 2022.

After a six-hour debate, the majority-Republican House voted to pass the bill by a margin of 78 to 39. It bans all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, excluding cases that involve fatal fetus abnormalities or medical emergencies. Republican representative Dana Trabulsy, supporting the bill, said, “This is the right to life and to give up life is unconscionable to me.”

Controversially, the bill did not include exceptions for rape or incest, prompting outcry from Democrats. Richie Mamam-Nbiba ’23 said, “The fact that there’s no exceptions for rape and incest is absurd. It takes away a woman’s humanity to say [to her] even if you were raped, even if it was incest, you have to have this baby. It turns a woman into a means of giving birth, not a person.”

If passed by the Senate, this 15-week ban would jeopardize the precedent established by the Roe v. Wade case in 1973, which determined that the Constitution protected a pregnant woman’s right to choose up until the point of fetal viability, which is up until around 24 weeks. 

Although only 3.5% of abortions happen after 15 weeks of pregnancy, some women do not know that they are pregnant until after this time period. The bill prohibits any abortions after the first 15 weeks, even if the woman is unaware of her pregnancy. The bill not only impacts women in Florida but also others in southeastern states who travel to Florida for the procedure. Bill supporters, however, argue that Florida should not be a place to undergo abortions. Mamam-Nbiba said, “Elements of [anatomy] and morality come into play. Even if some believe a baby has a right to life at 15 weeks, the viability is outweighed by the mother’s right to privacy. It’s inappropriate to say a woman can’t get an abortion because it takes away her ability to choose before she even knows.”

Despite objections, the bill will likely be passed by the Republican Senate and signed into law by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. The passing of this bill appears to mark the beginning of a trend, as other state legislatures such as Arizona and West Virginia are predicted to pass similar laws restricting abortion. Samantha Deans, the associate medical director of Planned Parenthoods in North, East, and South Florida, said, “If we do this in Florida, North Carolina will be right behind us. Then patients will have to go to Maryland, Virginia, Chicago. It will continue like that, getting further and further away, becoming less and less accessible.”

If the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by Governor DeSantis, it will become law on July 1.